The Empowered Women of Bangladesh’s SHOUHARDO Program


A SHOUHARDO II beneficiary maintains her homestead garden using skills she learned from the program.
A SHOUHARDO II beneficiary maintains her homestead garden using skills she learned from the program.

In honor of Women’s History Month, we pay tribute to the women of the SHOUHARDO and SHOUHARDO II programs, USAID-funded food security initiatives in Bangladesh.

The Strengthening household Ability to respond to Development Opportunities (SHOUHARDO) program, designed and implemented by CARE with funding from USAID, was launched in 2004 with the hope of reducing malnutrition and vulnerability to food insecurity in Bangladesh’s poorest communities. The follow-on, SHOUHARDO II, continues the work and progress of the earlier SHOUHARDO program.

While the project targets poor men and women, its focus is mainly on the women, empowering them to actively engage in initiatives related to reducing food insecurity in their communities. For example, SHOUHARDO offers women self-help groups to address the unique challenges they face in their communities, such as early marriage, violence, and sexual harassment, all of which restrict women’s freedom and decision making. The women who join these groups find the courage to move through the community more freely, to buy and sell goods at the markets without fear of intimidation, to contribute to their family’s income. They see doctors more frequently when they are pregnant and they have increased say in their children’s future. Their families start eating healthier diets, learn about nutrition, and improve their overall well-being. SHOUHARDO is also improving water infrastructure networks by developing more constant access to a close water supply, which decreases the burden on women for collecting water and maintaining household sanitation.

The idea that educating and encouraging women to actively participate in their communities to transform their livelihoods is not new. When the political, economic, and social barriers holding back women are eliminated, the fight against poverty and food insecurity becomes more powerful. children learn from their mothers. By educating women on nutrition, health, hygiene, and agriculture, their families grow up with these best practices.

SHOUHARDO is promoting women’s empowerment as a transformative strategy against poverty, and it’s working. By focusing on women, lasting and measurable results are achieved that benefit future generations.

C. Wixted

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Last updated: September 20, 2013

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